I always have words. Cheating spouses take away my words. That’s been problematic for me because I’ve covered relationships for publications and Websites, including iVillage and About.com, for more than a decade now. So, I’ve encountered many, many, many, many cheating spouses. I’m never quite sure what to say. My writing and reporting has been focused on keeping marriages and commitments intact, and I just don’t know how to do that when there’s been such a tear in trust.
Often, I default to the therapists and counselors I’ve interviewed over the years. Many of them take a practical approach to the issue. They listen to both sides of the story, try to get each person to take responsibility for his or her part, and then come up with a plan for moving on either together or separately. If the couple is staying together, the plan always includes the cheating spouse completely breaking ties with the fellow cheater and building up trust by being reliable to a tee and never lying again. It’s the only way, they say. I agree. I’ve even written about the possibility of a marriage becoming stronger after one of the partners has had an affair.
Still, while I understand why therapists ask the victims of cheating to assess their role in the affair, I don’t think it’s right for every couple, maybe not even most couples. Quit blaming victims. In recent days, Hillary Clinton has been criticized by Donald Trump and others for things she said 20 years ago about women who cheated on her with her spouse. Much of what she had said was part of a private conversation with her best friend, who died and whose correspondence was then made public. But I digress. Some pundits have compared Clinton to Beyonce, whose recent Lemonade special addressed the rumors that her husband has cheated on her. Beyonce’s lyrics, dances, and use of poetry condemned the cheating spouse – and the cheating women – in no uncertain terms.
One woman, who claims to have had relations with Jay-Z, Beyonce’s husband, before he was married composed a well-written piece about how each woman is part victimized wife and part “Becky with the Good Hair” (Beyonce’s reference to one of the other women). I say that is total B.S. and something the other woman says to belie her own guilt. Speak for yourself, lady. I have never been Becky with the Good Hair. Never. And I don’t plan on it either. There are plenty of others like me.
Clinton might be running for president and could be the first woman to get the job. Beyonce might be a pop superstar, the likes of which we have never seen. But they are also mere mothers and wives. They are us. It’s not their fault that their husbands cheated (or allegedly cheated in the case of Jay-Z). It has nothing to do with whether they weren’t pretty enough or available enough for sex or easy going enough. No matter what kind of blame people want to give them, their husbands are adults who broke their promises. Period.
The reasons people give for cheating on their spouses (or boyfriends or girlfriends) are endless and mostly ridiculous if you ask me. With Jay-Z and President Clinton, if the success of their women was too much for them to handle or emasculated them, then that’s on them. Screwing some other random woman was never going to make their penises any bigger. If their woman was too demanding or mean or neglectful, they should have raised that issue and tried to resolve it, rather than going and creating a new problem. There was a breakdown of communication? Start talking.
Finally, if you have fallen out of love or you’re no longer attracted to your spouse (and you don’t think that will ever change again) or your partner betrayed you and you can’t get over it, leave him or her. Then, pursue whatever relationships you want. There are a million alternatives to breaking your vows or promises whether you’re married or in a long-term, committed relationship.
Yes, if you go to counseling to keep the marriage or relationship together despite the affair, you’re both going to be asked to take responsibility for what happened. But I don’t buy that. And I think that belief system is legitimizing affairs to an extent and making it all right for pundits to blame Hillary Clinton and Beyonce for the sins of their husbands. Now, I’m not saying that those who cheat are terrible people who can never be redeemed. I am just saying that they made a mistake (or more than one) and they need to own it. I’m calling for a real revolution here. Let’s bring back integrity, accountability, respect, and faithfulness. Let’s stop blaming the cheated on and start demanding better from the cheaters. You cheaters, quit pointing fingers and redeem yourselves.